Rice, David, 1931-2013
The following was written by Gerry Sullivan, longtime friend of David Rice and Ephraim Marks and collection donor.
Ephraim Marks (1910-1998) and David Rice (1931-2013) were one of the few "out" gay couples in Omaha. Ephraim was a prominent attorney, one of the founding members of the Marks Clare law firm. David was a leading interior designer, working for Brandeis Stores and then Orchard & Wilhelm before starting his own business, David Rice Interiors.
They were truly one of the Omaha power couples. They were "visible and out" years before most gays had the courage to be out; their "activism" took the form of just being visible and active in the Omaha community. David and Ephraim were famous for their elaborate parties (often given in honor or visiting opera singers, or fashion designers or artists), all planned and orchestrated by David. These parties were typically held at the French Cafe in the Old Market, or at their home in Fairacres.
David and Ephraim were together for 46 years (1952-1998); they celebrated their 25th anniversary in 1977. In 1992, for their 40th anniversary, they held a black tie dinner party for a large number of friends at the original Bemis Contemporary Art Space in Omaha - they celebrated their 40th, as they knew that Ephraim, who was in poor health, would most probably not live until their 50th anniversary. Typically, David put on an amazing party - he even brought art from their home in Fairacres to hang on the walls of the Bemis.
As discussed by David Rice in the oral history he did with the Omaha Jewish Historical Society in 2012, a year before he died, they lived through the years when gay bars in Omaha were raided, etc. As David recounts in his oral history, friends who had escaped from the police raids at the bars would come to their house for sanctuary - as Ephraim was confident the police would not try to harass him, given his reputation for being a very pugilistic lawyer.
Ephraim was active in Democratic politics and had a reputation for being not only a tough attorney, but also someone who was not afraid of speaking out about discrimination or injustice.
Since gay marriage was not a possibility at the time they were together, as Ephraim grew older and in poor health, they explored Ephraim adopting David, but this was an impossibility in NE. When Ephraim died in 1998, David said that over $1 million was paid in inheritance taxes.
The Joslyn Museum has a number of pieces from the art collection of Ephraim Marks and David Rice in its collection, including portraits done of each of them by Kent Bellows, a well known Omaha artist. Several pieces from their collection are also in the collection of the Museum of NE Art in Kearney.
Upon David's death, his condo and its furnishings were bequeathed to Opera Omaha. The Marks-Rice art collection went to Joslyn Museum. There were a number of other charitable beneficiaries of the estate, including the NE Aids Project, the Omaha Symphony, the Jewish Federation of Omaha and the Rose Blumkin home.
Shortly before David's death, the Marks-Rice Second Chance Scholarship (for LBGT adults who have been out of the traditional school environment, and need to continue their education - if the recipient does not have a high school diploma, the scholarship will also help to obtain a GED) was established in their honor at Metropolitan Community College. David was the quintessential Renaissance man - in later years he revealed that he had dropped out of school after eighth grade, but Ephraim insisted that he go back to school and work on his education, which he did at the University of Omaha, taking art courses from Berthe Couch Koch, who started the fine arts department at the University. Art works done by Berthe Couch Koch, which were owned by Ephraim and David, have been donated to the Museum of NE Art at Kearney.
Obviously, the amazing life that David and Ephraim enjoyed was due to the great success they both enjoyed in their respective careers. There were a few other quite successful gay couples in Omaha during this time period, but David and Ephraim were the most out - meaning they mingled freely in Omaha social circles (both straight and gay), rather than socializing mainly with other gay couples (which is what most gay couples did at this time period).
David and Ephraim were very open about their relationship, living together as a couple from shortly after the time they began dating. Their life was always out and lived large.
In order for David to be buried next to Ephraim, it was necessary for him to convert to Judaism (a requirement for burial at the Jewish cemetery). Even their grave marker, which was designed by David, is a testimony to them being out and proud. It is made of black granite, with a pink triangle worked into the Star of David - a true testament to who they were. The inscription on their tomb:
"Raise the sparkling bowl up to your mouth and drink,
And as you raise it, signal secretly to me.
Then I will smile and drink as silently as you."